The reissue of Cotton Jones’ 2009  Rio Ranger EP includes the previously unheard “Marula” – a breezy, cantina waltz. The track, which can be streamed here, finds frontman Michael Nau singing and scatting amongst hazy, mercury vibes, which include trumpet, mandolin, and strange, shapeless backing chants. It is yet another example of the band’s singularly enchanting brand of cosmic Americana.

Another such hidden gem, of sorts, is the band’s unreleased “Wax Hand Asleep In A Glove.” Having appeared several years ago via Nau’s personal SoundCloud page, the track is a languid, dimly-lit, front porch meditation, and thus fits perfectly between the humid, lo-fi psychedelia of 2009′s Paranoid Cocoon and the cosmic grace of 2010′s Tall Hours in the Glowstream.

The first minute and a half of the song are instrumental, beginning with a strikingly reverberating chord of guitar, piano and drums, all in unison – an opening note both declarative and enigma. Swaying aside one another, everything slowly finds its footing. 90 seconds in and it is Whitney McGraw’s, not Nau’s, voice that is heard. Here, McGraw floats across a heavy bed of bass and reverb, which drowns out the piano to a hauntingly low echo, while a timpani drum is tapped as Nau’s whistle ebbs in and out before he eventually, but only ever so briefly, joins McGraw on vocals.

A little past the song’s halfway mark, McGraw breaks into a murky and obscured vocal bridge that might be one of the band’s finest melodic moments. At five minutes in, the music slowly begins to come apart, with the guitar, piano and timpani approaching a mysterious climax. And then, all at once, the band explodes into an incredibly psychedelic folk jam – a musical moment unlike any in the band’s canon. “I found a lot of bitter love in my heart/ain’t gonna take it from me,” sing Nau and McGraw, fading out on that unexpected sentiment, making the waters all the more cloudy and mesmerizing. words / c depasquale

Cotton Jones :: Wax Hand Asleep In A Glove


Ease back. The following is a journey through the rich musical culture of the American South – from Louisiana jazz and gospel to R&B, folk and blues forging a path from Mississippi to North Carolina.

I’m Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die :: A Medley

Percy Mayfield – Louisiana
Mahalia Jackson – Abraham, Martin and John
Sidney Bechet – Basin Street Blues
Solomon Burke – Meet Me In Church
The Soul Stirrers – That’s Heaven To Me
The Five Royales – Women About To Make Me Go Crazy
The Climates – No You For Me
Traditional – Steal Away
Brother James Anderson – I’m Tired, My Soul Needs Resting
E.C. Ball & Lacey Richardson – Tribulations
John Fahey – Lord Have Mercy
Emma Hammond – Shout Lula
Hobart Smith – The Devil’s Dream
Mississippi John Hurt – Since I’ve Laid My Burden Down
Canray Fontenot – Les Plats Sont Tous Mis Sur La Table
Michael Hurley – Jole’ Blon
United Sacred Harp Convention – The Last Words of Copernicus

Previously: Fais Do-Do: Volume 1 & Volume 2 // Maison Dufrene – A Mixtape


Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” is a strange, haunting thing. Largely carried by Cohen’s monotone, yet slightly lilting voice and sparse guitar accompaniment, the song evokes a dark, ambiguous feeling. The angelic backing vocals and seraphic strings that periodically emerge give the song a heavenly relief – a bittersweet release of giving yourself into a formless and transient love. A joy you know is fleeting.

Nina Simone :: Suzanne

What makes Nina Simone’s rendition so interesting is her arrangement’s total embrace of the beauty of this strange affair. Light and floating — with the piano, drums, guitar and Nina’s free-flowing vocals all working in perfect unison to give the song a brightness and buoyancy. It’s a spirited and optimistic rendition, all while adding further mystique, and allure, to Cohen’s words.

“And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
She gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover”

A mysterious song about a mysterious lover, “Suzanne” evokes the kind of romance that you do not, and cannot, fully understand, yet one you allow yourself be taken away by, no matter how temporary, or sorrowful. It is Simone’s alternate version, found on the 2012 reissue of her 1969 lp To Love Somebody, that fully embodies this sentiment. Here, the arrangement is sparse: some cloudy, fluttering piano, a subtle, metronomic drumbeat, and a meandering, noodling groove. Simone sings slower and, more importantly, deeper. She’s not approaching the subject so freely and brightly in this performance.

Nina Simone :: Suzanne (alternate version)


Betty LaVette has been a powerful force in soul music for over fifty years since her 1962 debut recording which was cut when she was 15 years old. Betty was born in the small town of Muskegon, MI, and grew up in Detroit, which is where she was discovered by Motown raconteur Johnnie Mae Matthews. As someone who has been known mostly to soul aficionados, her recent resurgence in popularity and activity is inspiring, and her old records are legacy that will live on forever.

Bettye LaVette :: My Man He’s A Lovin’ Man

This remarkable debut of Betty Lavett (later La Vette) began the glorious career of a remarkable vocalist. Co-writer of the track is Detroit’s “Mother Funker’ (in the words of George Clinton) Johnnie Mae Matthews; another incredible figure. Matthews was the first black woman to own a record label, and was also a mentor to Berry Gordy.


Bettye LaVette :: I Feel Good (All Over)
Bettye LaVette :: Only Your Love Can Save Me

By 1965 (the year this record was released), Ms. LaVette had relocated to New York City, which is where this record (and other classics such as ‘Let Me Down Easy”) were cut. This double sided masterpiece is the type of record that could easily be used to demonstrate what soul music is for someone who isn’t already converted, such is its majesty and power. “I Feel Good (“All Over) is an intense, pounding and swirling number and ‘Only Your Love” is a gorgeous and dreamy mid tempo number. Betty reaches a certain peak as a vocalist across both sides. An absolutely perfect single.

Bettye LaVette :: Stand Up Like A Man

This record may be one of Betty’s lesser known tracks, it’s oozing her majestic vocal power (she’s all of 19 years old here), and the song has some unusual chord changes, and the band swings so hard it HURTS.

(Derek See is a Bay area based musician who plays guitar with The Bang Girl Group Revue, Joel Gion & Primary Colours, and occasionally makes records on his own with The Gentle Cycle.)


Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 349: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Loose Fur – Hey Chicken ++ Parquet Courts – You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now ++ Pavement – Baptist Blacktick ++ The Fall – The Classical ++ Pavement – Unfair ++ Silver Jews – Send In The Clouds ++ Deerhunter – Rainwater Cassette Exchange ++ Women – Black Rice ++ Ought – Pleasant Heart ++ Here We Go Magic – Tunnelvision ++ Destroyer – Blue Flower / Blue Flame ++ Diane Coffee – All The Young Girls ++ The Art Museums – Paris Cafes ++ Daughn Gibson – Mad Ocean ++ Jeans Wilder – Sparkler ++ The Walkmen – Canadian Girl ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ Atlas Sound – Walkabout (w/ Noah Lennox) ++ Cass McCombs – Morning Star ++ Luke Temple – Ophelia ++ Chris Cohen – Optimist High ++ Eric D. Johnson – Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson) ++ Eric D. Johnson – A Heart Needs A Home (Richard And Linda Thompson) ++ Big Star – Daisy Glaze ++ The dBs – Moving In Your Sleep ++ R.E.M. – Stumble ++ The B-52′s – Dance This Mess Around ++ Pylon – Cool ++ Gary Numan – Metal ++ Cate Le Bon – Can’t Help You ++ Kevin Morby – Reign ++ Modern Vices – Smoke Rings ++ Jay Reatard – Hammer I Miss You

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

Snake Handler Draping Rattlesnake on Congregation Member

Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Grace Braun is a folk singer known for her visceral approach, which often consists of experimental instrumentation and shrieking vocals. Yet, Braun’s showmanship takes a backseat in this beautifully orchestrated, down-tempo anthem peppered with haunting organ keys and a choir of angelic voices. “Down in the Garden” can be found on Grace Braun’s 2002 LP, I’m Your Girl. words / p dufrene

Grace Braun :: Down In The Garden


Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

The Lagniappe Sessions return with two from Eric D. Johnson, whose first LP outside the long-running Fruit Bats, EDJ, is out next month via new label home, Easy Sound. Here, Johnson takes on the early 80s avatar that is Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out”, along with Richard & Linda Thompson’s “A Heart Needs a Home”. Johnson, in his own words, below.

Eric D. Johnson :: Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson)

This song is evocative for me – I remember it pretty well when it came out. I was only like 6 years old at the time but it was at a moment when I had completely discovered pop radio and was starting to make listening decisions for myself. Both then and now, there is something about this song that I find utterly melancholy. Looking at and learning the lyrics a little more closely, it is a little sad. He’s trying to convince someone to come out of the darkness and into the light. It’s a jam, but with these great washes of sweetness and sadness. Joe Jackson came to the world at a time when you could really, truly be a poet and a great pop-rocker all at once.

Eric D. Johnson :: A Heart Needs a Home (Richard & Linda Thompson)

Speaking of sweetness and sadness, good lord… Some years back, Fruit Bats did a pretty challenging tour of the UK during the grayest of winters. I pretty much had this song on repeat during that trip, and it seemed to fit just about right. This is really one of my favorite songs of all time. Its so devotional and heartfelt, but also clearly written about a relationship that is troubled and even ultimately doomed. There’s a live version of this from “Old Grey Whistle Test,” and Linda’s vocal performance is utterly heart-rending. I know there are plenty of fans of these Richard and Linda records, but in my mind they should be considered even more iconic than they are.

Lagniappe Sessions Archives / original illustration for aquarium drunkard by Ben Towle.


Los Angeles: This Thursday night, July 17th, Aquarium Drunkard presents Ryley Walker at the Echo. Advance tickets available for purchase, here. We’re giving away a few pairs to AD readers. To land them, leave a comment with your name and an email address we can reach you at.  Winners notified by Wednesday night.

vietcongViet Cong, a Calgary quartet made up of former Women bandmates Matt Flegel (bass) and Mike Wallace (drums), as well as guitarists Monty Munro and Danny Christiansen, have just reissued their previously tour-only Cassette via Mexican Summer.

While there are shadows of the aforementioned Women – a certain spooky, claustrophobic, gloominess – this new concern has proven interested in expanded sonic territories, making Cassette a dynamic and absorbing listen, one which strengthens with each listen.

Viet Cong, while indefinable by genre, certainly know who they are and what they are doing. The record kicks off in full-force, with a confidence reminiscent of “See No Evil,” Television’s introduction to the world via their debut, Marquee Moon. Viet Cong’s introduction is a track titled “Throw It Away,” and it features wiry, post-punk guitars (not unlike Television) while inflecting some new wave influence via sheening, rising synths. “Unconscious Melody” kicks off with a drum break, before giving way to Echo & the Bunnymen guitars, vibing off a menacing bassline, reedy synths and violent, frantic vocals – which are accented by short, bleated bursts of guitar – suggesting some kind of major malfunction, emotional or otherwise.

“Oxygen Feed” is perhaps the track most reminiscent of Women, residing in a lo-fi, closed in mix, emitting a gothic angst, though it takes a surprising turn in the vocal bridge – a gloomily soulful performance in which someone is buried, but only so far. The vocals, decidedly distant and drowned out, evoke the sense of a hazy, half-remembered dream, a vibe that carries across the entire record. Emitting cascading bleeps while the guitars subtly come into focus, “Static Wall” gradually channels some kind of 60s haunted, psychedelic pop – like a lost radio signal from a ghost ship sailing in the negative space. The guitars eventually give way to atmospheric, almost tropical feedback — the radio bleeps rise and fall as the ship (perhaps) finally finds solace.

“Structureless Design” locks into in industrial groove before undergoing a seizure of thrashing guitars and changing gears into a propulsive drum-led séance, though the seizures reoccur and the song warps into a psychic freak-out. The cover of Bauhaus’ “Dark Entries” channels a pure, gothic, punk rock energy, aided in no small part by the raw energy and seemingly live nature of this recording. The odd, buoyant synth coda is a charmingly elusive moment that one hopes will come to represent a trait synonymous with this band – striking chords that resonate sonically but remain psychically intangible. The album’s closing track – “Select Your Drone” – does just that, occupying a space of lilting, psychedelic pop before descending into dissonant jam more than worthy of it’s namesake. Screeching feedback, propulsive guitar, echoing vocals, lost in some kind of nightmarish distance – a location just out of reach but not exactly desirable, either.

In seven songs and just over thirty minutes, Viet Cong traverses a landscape comprised of both dreams and nightmares, of pop and horror. Where they ended up is a mystery, but one can only hope they’ll be seen again. words / c depasquale

Viet Cong :: Static Wall